VII. Perhaps, in all countries, the first step to social improvement is in the institution of marriage, and the second is the formation of cities. As Menes in Egypt, as Fohi in China, so Cecrops at Athens is said first to have reduced into sacred limits the irregular intercourse of the sexes , and reclaimed his barbarous subjects from a wandering and unprovidential life, subsisting on the spontaneous produce of no abundant soil. High above the plain, and fronting the sea, which, about three miles distant on that side, sweeps into a bay peculiarly adapted for the maritime enterprises of an earlier age, we still behold a cragged and nearly perpendicular rock. In length its superficies is about eight hundred, in breadth about four hundred, feet . Below, on either side, flow the immortal streams of the Ilissus and Cephisus. From its summit you may survey, here, the mountains of Hymettus, Pentelicus, and, far away, "the silver-bearing Laurium;" below, the wide plain of Attica, broken by rocky hills - there, the islands of Salamis and Aegina, with the opposite shores of Argolis, rising above the waters of the Saronic Bay. On this rock the supposed Egyptian is said to have built a fortress, and founded a city ; the fortress was in later times styled the Acropolis, and the place itself, when the buildings of Athens spread far and wide beneath its base, was still designated polis, or the CITY. By degrees we are told that he extended, from this impregnable castle and its adjacent plain, the limit of his realm, until it included the whole of Attica, and perhaps Boeotia . It is also related that he established eleven other towns or hamlets, and divided his people into twelve tribes, to each of which one of the towns was apportioned - a fortress against foreign invasion, and a court of justice in civil disputes.
If we may trust to the glimmering light which, resting for a moment, uncertain and confused, upon the reign of Cecrops, is swallowed up in all the darkness of fable during those of his reputed successors, - it is to this apocryphal personage that we must refer the elements both of agriculture and law. He is said to have instructed the Athenians to till the land, and to watch the produce of the seasons; to have imported from Egypt the olive-tree, for which the Attic soil was afterward so celebrated, and even to have navigated to Sicily and to Africa for supplies of corn. That such advances from a primitive and savage state were not made in a single generation, is sufficiently clear. With more probability, Cecrops is reputed to have imposed upon the ignorance of his subjects and the license of his followers the curb of impartial law, and to have founded a tribunal of justice (doubtless the sole one for all disputes), in which after times imagined to trace the origin of the solemn Areopagus.
VIII. Passing from these doubtful speculations on the detailed improvements effected by Cecrops in the social life of the Attic people, I shall enter now into some examination of two subjects far more important. The first is the religion of the Athenians in common with the rest of Greece; and the second the origin of the institution of slavery.
The origin of religion in all countries is an inquiry of the deepest interest and of the vaguest result. For, the desire of the pious to trace throughout all creeds the principles of the one they themselves profess - the vanity of the learned to display a various and recondite erudition - the passion of the ingenious to harmonize conflicting traditions - and the ambition of every speculator to say something new upon an ancient but inexhaustible subject, so far from enlightening, only perplex our conjectures. Scarcely is the theory of to-day established, than the theory of to-morrow is invented to oppose it. With one the religion of the Greeks is but a type of the mysteries of the Jews, the event of the deluge, and the preservation of the ark; with another it is as entirely an incorporation of the metaphysical solemnities of the Egyptian; - now it is the crafty device of priests, now the wise invention of sages. It is not too much to say, that after the profoundest labours and the most plausible conjectures of modern times, we remain yet more uncertain and confused than we were before. It is the dark boast of every pagan mythology, as one of the eldest of the pagan deities, that "none among mortals hath lifted up its veil!"
After, then, some brief and preliminary remarks, tending to such hypotheses as appear to me most probable and simple, I shall hasten from unprofitable researches into the Unknown, to useful deductions from what is given to our survey - in a word, from the origin of the Grecian religion to its influence and its effects; the first is the province of the antiquary and the speculator; the last of the historian and the practical philosopher.